Britain Went Ahead To Seek Arms Deals With Saudi Arabia After Murder Of Khashoggi Which It Condemned |RN

Theresa May standing next to a vase of flowers on a table       © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited 


The British government pursued arms deals with Saudi Arabia in the weeks after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, even as it publicly condemned the murder.

Khashoggi was killed by Saudi officials inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, prompting global condemnation and calls for a re-evaluation of ties with the Kingdom.

As the UK government called for answers over the dissident’s death, British trade officials responsible for arms sales continued to hold high-level meetings with their Saudi counterparts.

A delegation from the Defence and Security Organisation – an office within the Department for International Trade that promotes arms exports for UK companies – travelled to Riyadh on 14 and 22 October, according to a Freedom of Information request obtained by the Mirror newspaper.

The latter of those meetings came on the same day as the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, condemned Khashoggi’s killing “in the strongest possible terms” in a speech to parliament.

“Whilst we will be thoughtful and considered in our response, I have also been clear that if the appalling stories we are reading turn out to be true, they are fundamentally incompatible with our values and we will act accordingly,” Mr Hunt said on October 22.

The foreign secretary made a point of announcing the cancellation of a planned visit to Riyadh by the trade secretary, Liam Fox. However, he did not disclose that meetings over arms sales were still taking place.

Even before the murder of Khashoggi, the UK government had been under pressure to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia over alleged war crimes and rising civilian casualties in Yemen.

Riyadh intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to reinstate the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The fighting has killed at least 10,000 civilians – most of whom were victims of airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition – and left nearly 16 million people on the brink of famine.

The coalition has admitted causing civilian casualties, but attributes the deaths to “unintentional mistakes”, and says it is committed to upholding international law. The Houthis have also targeted civilians throughout the conflict, according to the UN.

Since the war began, the UK has licensed £4.7 billion worth of weapons to Saudi forces, making it by far the largest buyer of UK arms. Khashoggi’s killing brought new pressure on the British government to reassess its ties to Saudi Arabia, after Germany and Norway halted all future arms sales to Riyadh.

“Jeremy Hunt was quick to join the condemnations of the killing, but he has done nothing to stop the arms sales. How many more atrocities and abuses would it take for him to act?” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade.

“It has used these weapons to devastating effect in Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition have inflicted the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was yet another appalling crime by the Saudi authorities.”

Even as more evidence has emerged pointing to the culpability of the Saudi government in Khashoggi’s killing, the UK appears to have made no substantial change to its relationship.

British prime minister Theresa May held face-to-face talks last month with Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader whose close aides carried out the killing and subsequently attempted to cover it up.

The prime minister said she stressed “the importance of a full, transparent and credible investigation into the terrible murder” during her meeting with the Crown Prince at the G20 summit in Argentina. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Ms May of not following through with action.

“Rather than be robust, as she promised, we learned the Prime Minister told the dictator ‘please don’t use the weapons we are selling you in the war you’re waging’ and asked him nicely to investigate the murder he allegedly ordered,” Mr Corbyn said last month.

“Leaders should not just offer warm words against human rights atrocities but back up their words with action,” he added.

Mr Hunt has defended arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing Britain’s “important strategic partnership” with the country “which has saved lives on the streets of Britain.”

The Saudi meetings are not the first time that Britain has been criticised for putting trade before human rights concerns. British academic Matthew Hedges was detained for months in the United Arab Emirates and accused of spying on behalf of the UK.

During the five months Mr Hedges was held in solitary confinement, Mr Hunt called the arrest “appalling” and criticised the UAE publicly. Behind the scenes, however, high-level trade meetings continued apace. Liam Fox, the trade secretary, Baroness Rona Fairhead, UK Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion and Alistair Burt, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, all met with UAE officials to drum up trade between the two countries.

Polly Truscott, Amnesty International UK’s foreign affairs expert, told The Independent in November that the UK has “long given the impression that security and trade interests trump human rights concerns in the UAE.”

“With Matthew Hedges’ case, it almost seems to have come as a surprise to the government that the UAE actually locks up people after deeply unfair trials,” she said.

The Freedom of Information request by the Mirror found that the 14 October talks focused on “Riyadh Operations Centre requirements,” which is likely a reference to the operations centre where Saudi strikes against Yemen are coordinated.

Commenting on the meetings with Saudi officials, a government spokesperson told The Independent: “The government takes its export responsibilities very seriously, operating one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. Risks around human rights abuses are a key part of any licensing assessment.

“Visits by officials from the UK will continue to play a role in maintaining our relationship with Saudi Arabia including in how we work together to tackle regional threats, and support mutual national security and prosperity interests.”


Continue reading


Young Saudi Crown Prince Tightens Grip On Power At Home, Abroad In Shocking 24hrs

       © Provided by Business Insider Prince Muhammad bin Salman (Getty)

BEIRUT—It was a weekend of political earthquakes in Saudi Arabia, with tremors felt domestically and across the Middle East, as a faction led by the audacious 32-year-old Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman—son of the reigning King Salman—embarked on a stunning power play against rivals at home and abroad.The first of Saturday’s dizzying developments came when Lebanese prime minister and Saudi ally Saad al-Hariri used the occasion of a visit to the Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh, to announce his resignation, thereby toppling his own government and unraveling the fragile power-sharing arrangement that had kept the often-turbulent Mediterranean state relatively quiet for the 11 months since his cabinet was formed last December.Hariri’s uncharacteristically militant speech, broadcast exclusively on Saudi’s Al-Arabiya TV, blasted the “evil” of Iran and its Lebanese “arm” Hezbollah, insinuating the latter was plotting to kill him, as it stands accused of murdering his father, former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, in 2005.

“[Iran] does not descend on a place but that it plants strife and destruction and ruin therein … driven by a concealed hatred for the Arab people, and an indomitable desire to destroy and control them. … We live in a climate resembling that which prevailed shortly before the assassination of the Martyr Rafiq al-Hariri. I have become aware of a covert intrigue targeting my life.”It now falls, constitutionally, to Lebanon’s parliament to consult with President Michel Aoun—himself a close Hezbollah ally—on the appointment of a new prime minister; a process likely to drag on for months, and possibly years (Lebanon’s recent presidential vacuum, for comparison’s sake, lasted two years and six months, from April 2014 to October 2016).

That surprise was soon followed by reports a long-range ballistic missile fired by Iranian-backed militants in Yemen had been intercepted by U.S.-made Patriot defense systems near the Saudi capital’s airport.

That in turn was followed by the evening’s dramatic final act: the shock revelation that dozens of prominent Saudi princes, ministers, and businessmen, including the flamboyant billionaire investor Prince al-Waleed bin Talal—a shareholder in Apple, Twitter, Citigroup, and London’s Savoy hotel, among many others—had been arrested on corruption charges, with additional senior officials fired from their posts.

The developments may, on their face, appear to have little in common. But analysts are in broad agreement that the thread binding them together is the crown prince’s campaign to consolidate power domestically and region-wide; a fundamental component of which is a renewed pushback against chief nemesis Iran’s extensive and growing influence across the Arab world, most notably in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon.

“The [Hariri] move clearly points to a Saudi will to start confronting Iran in a new theater, Lebanon, that was [hitherto] neutralized,” said Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Program, who forecast in an article last month that Riyadh would soon step up confrontation with Iran inside Lebanon.

“By ending the deal producing the government where Hezbollah is a major partner, Riyadh has decided to isolate the party, its backer [Iran], and force it to face consequences,” Bahout added to The Daily Beast.

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, agreed it was “very clear [Hariri’s resignation] was a Saudi move,” highlighting Saudi displeasure with Hariri’s acquiescence in a string of policies favorable to Hezbollah during his tenure, including a creeping normalization of official relations with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.

“He gave them everything they wanted, and then some. And when he didn’t, they didn’t care; they moved anyway … until it got so embarrassing that I guess the Saudis said we need to pull the plug now,” Badran told The Daily Beast.

What happens next in Lebanon, however, is less clear, according to both Bahout and Badran. While a number among the Twitter commentariat predict doomsday scenarios, Badran argues there are in reality few tangible options for Saudi to further hurt Iran’s position in Beirut, beyond economic measures such as sanctions against Lebanese individuals deemed affiliates of Hezbollah in the Gulf—including Christian members of President Aoun’s movement.

As for the arrests and dismissals of the major Saudi figures in Riyadh, the motivation and implications appear twofold. On the one hand, Muhammad bin Salman’s anti-corruption rhetoric—and now action—has proven popular with many Saudis, even those otherwise critical of the crown prince’s governance.

“Selective accountability is imperfect justice, yet … what happened yesterday was very great,” tweeted Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist now living in self-imposed exile, who less than two months ago attacked Bin Salman’s “shocking” and “extreme” crackdown on dissent in a widely read Washington Post op-ed.

On the other hand, some of the figures targeted appear to have been selected less for their financial than their political profiles. Most conspicuous of these is now-deposed 65-year-old National Guard Minister Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a favored son of the late King Abdullah, who was once considered a natural heir to the throne. Another was navy commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Muhammad al-Sultan. (The Daily Beast)

Continue reading


HAJJ: 2 Male Kano Pilgrims Die In Saudi Arabia |The Republican News


Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Two pilgrims from Kano State have died during the 2017 Hajj in Saudi Arabia, the  State Pilgrims Welfare Board said on Thursday.

The Board’s Public Relations Officer, Alhaji Nuhu Badamasi told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the telephone from Makkah that the deceased who were males died in Makkah after performing their Hajj rites at the Ararat.

“The two pilgrims who lost their lives during this year’s Hajj died in Makkah after they performed the most significant Hajj rites, that is staying at the Arafat,” he said.

Badamasi said the deceased who were from Dala and Doguwa local government areas, had since been buried in Makkah in accordance with the Islamic rites.

On preparations for the transportation of the state pilgrims back to Nigeria, Badamasi said the exercise would commence on Sept. 15.

He said most of the pilgrims had visited Madinah while the few that had not, were now preparing to go from Makkah.

“Almost all our pilgrims have visited Madinah with the exception of about 15 officials who are now preparing to visit the Holy city from where they will be transported back home,” the spokesman added.

No fewer than 5, 500 pilgrims from the state performed the Hajj. (NAN)

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: